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    Auschwitz death camp lesson learned

     

    Auschwitz was the most notorious of the Nazi labor camps in WWII. There, a man or woman could expect at any moment to be sent to the gas chambers, used for medical experiments or given a phenol injection to the heart which would cause death in 15 seconds. If lucky, they would instead be used for exhaustive labor under the most grueling conditions. A selection committee decided who was fit for labor and who would be used for medical experiments or exterminated. One 'doctor' drew an arbitrary height line of 5 feet 2 inches and any child who was not tall enough was sent to the gas chambers immediately. Many were sent to the chambers directly upon arriving at Auschwitz. For that reason records do not exist for all of the people who were killed. Their horrible suffering and the conditions they endured were beyond belief. People would tell each other lies just to give hope. "The allies have landed in Greece". The implication was that they would be rescued soon. There were many other stories concocted to keep one another from utter despair. After Auschwitz was closed and the inmates released there was a reckoning. The Nazis were hunted down over the years and brought to account for their crimes one by one. The time of Nazi Germany has ended. Yet, there exists forced labor camps in China today while Holocaust survivors still live. Have we learned nothing from history? The labor camps in China, much like the Nazi death camps, are used to harm those whom the Chinese Communist Party does not like. They are also used to attempt to break the will and spirit of those who practice the peaceful meditation practice of Falun Gong. From these camps the Chinese Communist Party derives a source of free labor. The goods are exported for profit and consumption around the world. Similar to the Nazi camps, these nightmarish dens of horror are a source of suffering, torture and death. Why are they tolerated? Isn't it time that they are dismantled and eliminated? The famous poet Elie Wiesel, himself an Auschwitz survivor, had this to say, "I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." Simon Wiesenthal, another labor camp survivor who helped bring many Nazi criminals to justice said this. "For your benefit, learn from our tragedy. It is not a written law that the next victims must be Jews. It can also be other people. We saw it begin in Germany with Jews, but people from more than twenty other nations were also murdered. When I started this work, I said to myself, I will look for the murderers of all the victims, not only the Jewish victims. I will fight for justice." The Chinese Communist Party is responsible for the use of forced labor camps that house many Chinese citizens today. To do nothing is to ignore the lessons of the past as well as the suffering of the present. Isn't it time to speak up? Call a Chinese embassy or official and let them know what you think of their forced labor camps. Tell them to stop the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. Do not remain silent.

         
    Choice theory

     

    You have listened to me for a year now talking about Choice Theory but I know I’ve never really explained what Choice Theory is. Choice Theory is actually an explanation of all human behavior developed by Dr. William Glasser. There are basically five components of this theory—the basic human needs, the quality world, the perceived world, the comparing place and total behavior. I’ll give a brief overview of each one, starting with the five basic human needs. The Basic Human Needs We are born with five basic human needs—survival, love & belonging, power, freedom and fun. We are all born with these needs but we experience them to varying degrees. One person might have a high love & belonging need, while another person is high in freedom. We are born with these needs and are biologically driven to get them met in the best way available to us. The Quality World This is a place that exists inside all of us where we store pictures of things that have satisfied one or more of our basic needs in the past or things we think may satisfy them in the future. These things do not have to meet society’s definition of quality. Alcohol is in the quality world of an alcoholic, steeling cars in the quality world of a car thief, and domestic violence is in the quality world of a batterer. The only two requirements for entry into the quality world are that it meets one or more of our needs and it feels good. The Perceived World There is much to be said about the perceived world but for the purposes of this article, all I want to say is that we each have our own perceptions of the world. Our sensory system takes in information through sight, touch, sound, taste and scent, however we all have unique ways of processing that information based on our life experiences, our culture, and our values. The main thing to remember about the perceived world is that if you encounter others whose perceived world doesn’t match yours, it doesn’t mean one of you is wrong. It simply means you are different. Remembering this simply statement will reduce much of the disagreements and fighting that occurs in people’s lives. Acceptance of this fact would mean we could give up the need to convince others of our point of view. We could simply accept the fact that we see things differently and move on. The Comparing Place The comparing place is where we weigh what we want from our quality world against our perceptions of what we believe we are actually getting. When these two things are a match, all is well. However, when our perceptions and quality world don’t line up, in other words we perceive we are not in possession of the things we want, then we are driven to action to get those things we are thinking about. People generally don’t make a lot of progress or change the things they are currently doing unless they are in some degree of discomfort—the greater the pain the more motivation to try something different. This is where conventional wisdom tells us that if we want what’s best for other people in our lives, then it is our responsibility to raise their pain level to get them to do things differently because we generally know what’s best for them. Right? Wrong. We can only know what’s best for ourselves. Remember, our perceived worlds are all different. We have unique values and experiences. How can we possibly know what’s best for someone else when we haven’t been in their skin or lived their life? We can only know what’s best for ourselves. Total Behavior There are two main things about behavior. One is that all behavior is purposeful and two is that all behavior is total. Let’s begin with the idea that all behavior is total. There are four inseparable components of behavior—action, thinking, feeling and physiology. These all exist simultaneously during any given behavior in which we engage. The first two components—acting and thinking—are the only components over which we can have direct control. This means that if we want to change how we are feeling or something that is happening in our bodies (physiology), then we must first consciously change what we are doing or how we are thinking. As for all behavior being purposeful, all behavior is our best attempt to get something we want. We are never acting in response to some external stimulus. We are always acting proactively to get something we want. This means that when I would yell at my son to clean his room after asking him nicely several times, I wasn’t yelling because my son “made me mad.” I was yelling because I was still using my best attempt to get him to do what I wanted, which was to clean his room. This seems like I’m splitting hairs but it’s an important distinction to make when you are attempting to move from a victim’s role to that of an empowered person. The Implications Choice Theory pretty much rids us of the idea that people are “misbehaving.” All anyone is doing is their best attempt to get something they want. Of course in the process, they may break laws, disregard rules and hurt others but those are really side effects of doing the best they know how to get their needs met. We are all doing our best—some of us simply have better tools, resources and behaviors at our disposal than others. If we embrace Choice Theory’s concepts, then our function should be more to educate and help others self-evaluate the effectiveness of their own behavior. Know that often they will continue to do things exactly as they have because it’s familiar and/or because what they are doing really is getting them something they want. It is not our job to stop them, nor is it our job to rescue them from the consequences of their own behavior. We can only make our best attempt to help others evaluate the effectiveness of their behavior and to choose a different way that perhaps is not against the rules or doesn’t hurt the person or someone else. Then, we need to get out of the way and let the situation play out. This may seem hard to do—like you aren’t doing your job as a parent, teacher, counselor, or supervisor, however, I ask, what is the alternative? When you attempt to force or coerce or bribe another person to do things he or she doesn’t want to do, you may be successful. You may be able to find the right reward or create a painful enough consequence to get another person to do what you want but in so doing you are breeding resentment and contempt. Your relationship will suffer. If you believe, as I do, that relationship is the root of all influence, then you are losing your ability to influence another by using external control.

         
    Eulogy for a good book powerpoint and the two reasons you need to understand it

     

    Good bye Moby Dick! Farewell Crime and Punishment! Adios National Geographic and Readers Digest! PowerPoint and the generation of the 7th Millennium rules. If you're a "Baby Boomer", PowerPoint will likely not appeal to you. Perhaps you will even feel it is evil. But I'll give you two good reasons you ought to understand and appreciate PowerPoint. Your children and grandchildren. PowerPoint is the way the Generation of the 7th Millennium and beyond will cope in this fast-paced, frenetic world of iPods, search engines and micro-minute attention spans. (If man came on to the scene in the year 4026 BCE then 1975 would mark the beginning of the seventh Millennium Yes, if you were a teen in '75, you remember reading novels and composing essays for your teachers and professors. On the weekends, you caught movies like Dog Day Afternoon, Mahogany, The Man Who Would Be King, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Love Story, The Stepford Wives, Three Days of the Condor and Monty Python and the Holy Grail ("Sir, by what name be ye known?" …reply? "Some call me Tim?") A good plot, drama, and wit (ok, we weren’t perfect then either) ruled the big screen. But times have evolved. What was a "New York Minute" back then is a New York milli-second today. The big screen stars born in that notable year include Drew Barrymore, Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, and Kate Winslet. In '75, there were five notable deaths -- Marjorie Main (Ma Kettle), Susan Hayward, The Three Stooges' Larry Fine and Moe Howard. The fifth death at the birth of the 7th Millennium was not noted for almost 20 years. The death of which I am speaking is the death of reading and comprehension skills. Many college professors trace the decline of student reading and retention to 1975, or the beginning of the 7th Millennium. This is manifested by students who take no notes, wear stylish headsets that re-play lectures which were recorded by professors. Look at how many professors today use PowerPoint presentations and give copies of the slides to their students to use as a study guide. Do you really think students have time to read when the Internet furnishes information in lightning-quick fashion? Why are newspapers folding, libraries closing and reader's club subscriptions falling? Perhaps the biggest indictment is the Internet. Yes, the industrial age has died and the information age is alive and well. That is, if you like looking at pictures in shades of PowerPoint blue. Delivering and receiving information has changed. There are a new set of rules for writing and reading on the web. One sentence paragraphs are acceptable. None are longer than three sentences. On the better sites, articles are generally no longer than 750 words. That's because reading is done by scanning. To engage a reader (or scanner as the case may be), psychological tricks like connectives are used to tie one paragraph to the next. There are two kinds of copy on the Internet. One appeals to traditional readers, the other to the newer generation of the 7th Millennium. The key to educating 7th Millennium students is PowerPoint. The challenge facing educators, speakers and presenters is creating a lecture that can stand on its own merit, utilizing Power Point as a visual aid rather than making Power Point the presentation. The generation of the 7th Millennium becomes easily bored. Stimulating students' grey matter neurons requires using our own little grey box of tricks, using word illustrations and probing questions to elevate thinking. Power Point presentations combined with effective speaking tactics are a dynamic one-two punch in the lecture hall. The future will remember non-predictions of the past as was the case with Jules Vern’s novel conception of a facsimile machine several decades before its creation. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and The Max Headroom Story will be ‘novel’ predictions of the future. Moving forward, we will no longer look for 15 minutes of fame. No more New York minutes. On the web, things happen in seconds. Our future will soon become our past. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that everybody will be somebody for 27 seconds. In a world of sound bites, images flashing before our eyes and action movies, the reality is that 27 seconds is an eternity on the net. Capturing the attention of the generation of the 7th Millennium requires pictures, images, and attention-grabbing devices. PowerPoint is the solution. It is the salvation of tomorrow's classroom. May we use Power Point Presentations wisely.

         
    Lost relatives and ancestors a beginner s guide

     

    Lost Relatives and Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide “Collecting Dead Relatives and Sometimes a Live Cousin” and “My Family Tree is Lost in the Forest” are just some of the catchy slogans found printed on the shirts of genealogy enthusiasts. These avid researchers are looking to fill the holes in their family trees. It’s work that most have been at for decades. My wife and I wanted to get started finding our lost relatives, but we didn’t know where to begin. She had a binder full of information that one of her relatives had put together, but other than that, we were the ones who were lost. We started by going to the Genealogy library at Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library, but you can also do this online. The first step to finding your lost relatives is to download all the information that has already been compiled. We did this by using the Ancestral File database that is indexed at the world’s largest genealogy library, The Family History Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. We remotely accessed the database and first found my wife’s records. We saw on her pedigree chart that some relatives had already compiled information on her mother’s line, but her father’s line was empty. After downloading my wife’s pedigree chart onto a GEDCOM file, we did some research on her father’s line. The family history consultant told us that it’s possible that there has been work done on her father’s line, but it just hasn’t been connected to my wife’s file. By typing in her paternal grandfather’s name into the search, we were able to find much more information. The consultant told us that we needed to download his pedigree chart, take it home to our computer and merge his file with my wife’s file. That would associate all his information with my wife’s. The best computer program for compiling Family History information is Personal Ancestral File (PAF) which is currently in the 5.2 release. The software is free, so you should be able to find it in any search engine. Check back again for the next installment which will deal with doing your own research.

         
    Ngos the self appointed altruists

     

    Their arrival portends rising local prices and a culture shock. Many of them live in plush apartments, or five star hotels, drive SUV's, sport $3000 laptops and PDA's. They earn a two figure multiple of the local average wage. They are busybodies, preachers, critics, do-gooders, and professional altruists. Always self-appointed, they answer to no constituency. Though unelected and ignorant of local realities, they confront the democratically chosen and those who voted them into office. A few of them are enmeshed in crime and corruption. They are the non-governmental organizations, or NGO's. Some NGO's - like Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Amnesty - genuinely contribute to enhancing welfare, to the mitigation of hunger, the furtherance of human and civil rights, or the curbing of disease. Others - usually in the guise of think tanks and lobby groups - are sometimes ideologically biased, or religiously-committed and, often, at the service of special interests. NGO's - such as the International Crisis Group - have openly interfered on behalf of the opposition in the last parliamentary elections in Macedonia. Other NGO's have done so in Belarus and Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Israel, Nigeria and Thailand, Slovakia and Hungary - and even in Western, rich, countries including the USA, Canada, Germany, and Belgium. The encroachment on state sovereignty of international law - enshrined in numerous treaties and conventions - allows NGO's to get involved in hitherto strictly domestic affairs like corruption, civil rights, the composition of the media, the penal and civil codes, environmental policies, or the allocation of economic resources and of natural endowments, such as land and water. No field of government activity is now exempt from the glare of NGO's. They serve as self-appointed witnesses, judges, jury and executioner rolled into one. Regardless of their persuasion or modus operandi, all NGO's are top heavy with entrenched, well-remunerated, extravagantly-perked bureaucracies. Opacity is typical of NGO's. Amnesty's rules prevent its officials from publicly discussing the inner workings of the organization - proposals, debates, opinions - until they have become officially voted into its Mandate. Thus, dissenting views rarely get an open hearing. Contrary to their teachings, the financing of NGO's is invariably obscure and their sponsors unknown. The bulk of the income of most non-governmental organizations, even the largest ones, comes from - usually foreign - powers. Many NGO's serve as official contractors for governments. NGO's serve as long arms of their sponsoring states - gathering intelligence, burnishing their image, and promoting their interests. There is a revolving door between the staff of NGO's and government bureaucracies the world over. The British Foreign Office finances a host of NGO's - including the fiercely "independent" Global Witness - in troubled spots, such as Angola. Many host governments accuse NGO's of - unwittingly or knowingly - serving as hotbeds of espionage. Very few NGO's derive some of their income from public contributions and donations. The more substantial NGO's spend one tenth of their budget on PR and solicitation of charity. In a desperate bid to attract international attention, so many of them lied about their projects in the Rwanda crisis in 1994, recounts "The Economist", that the Red Cross felt compelled to draw up a ten point mandatory NGO code of ethics. A code of conduct was adopted in 1995. But the phenomenon recurred in Kosovo. All NGO's claim to be not for profit - yet, many of them possess sizable equity portfolios and abuse their position to increase the market share of firms they own. Conflicts of interest and unethical behavior abound. Cafedirect is a British firm committed to "fair trade" coffee. Oxfam, an NGO, embarked, three years ago, on a campaign targeted at Cafedirect's competitors, accusing them of exploiting growers by paying them a tiny fraction of the retail price of the coffee they sell. Yet, Oxfam owns 25% of Cafedirect. Large NGO's resemble multinational corporations in structure and operation. They are hierarchical, maintain large media, government lobbying, and PR departments, head-hunt, invest proceeds in professionally-managed portfolios, compete in government tenders, and own a variety of unrelated businesses. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development owns the license for second mobile phone operator in Afghanistan - among other businesses. In this respect, NGO's are more like cults than like civic organizations. Many NGO's promote economic causes - anti-globalization, the banning of child labor, the relaxing of intellectual property rights, or fair payment for agricultural products. Many of these causes are both worthy and sound. Alas, most NGO's lack economic expertise and inflict damage on the alleged recipients of their beneficence. NGO's are at times manipulated by - or collude with - industrial groups and political parties. It is telling that the denizens of many developing countries suspect the West and its NGO's of promoting an agenda of trade protectionism. Stringent - and expensive - labor and environmental provisions in international treaties may well be a ploy to fend off imports based on cheap labor and the competition they wreak on well-ensconced domestic industries and their political stooges. Take child labor - as distinct from the universally condemnable phenomena of child prostitution, child soldiering, or child slavery. Child labor, in many destitute locales, is all that separates the family from all-pervasive, life threatening, poverty. As national income grows, child labor declines. Following the outcry provoked, in 1995, by NGO's against soccer balls stitched by children in Pakistan, both Nike and Reebok relocated their workshops and sacked countless women and 7000 children. The average family income - anyhow meager - fell by 20 percent. This affair elicited the following wry commentary from economists Drusilla Brown, Alan Deardorif, and Robert Stern: "While Baden Sports can quite credibly claim that their soccer balls are not sewn by children, the relocation of their production facility undoubtedly did nothing for their former child workers and their families." This is far from being a unique case. Threatened with legal reprisals and "reputation risks" (being named-and-shamed by overzealous NGO's) - multinationals engage in preemptive sacking. More than 50,000 children in Bangladesh were let go in 1993 by German garment factories in anticipation of the American never-legislated Child Labor Deterrence Act. Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, observed: "Stopping child labor without doing anything else could leave children worse off. If they are working out of necessity, as most are, stopping them could force them into prostitution or other employment with greater personal dangers. The most important thing is that they be in school and receive the education to help them leave poverty." NGO-fostered hype notwithstanding, 70% of all children work within their family unit, in agriculture. Less than 1 percent are employed in mining and another 2 percent in construction. Again contrary to NGO-proffered panaceas, education is not a solution. Millions graduate every year in developing countries - 100,000 in Morocco alone. But unemployment reaches more than one third of the workforce in places such as Macedonia. Children at work may be harshly treated by their supervisors but at least they are kept off the far more menacing streets. Some kids even end up with a skill and are rendered employable. "The Economist" sums up the shortsightedness, inaptitude, ignorance, and self-centeredness of NGO's neatly: "Suppose that in the remorseless search for profit, multinationals pay sweatshop wages to their workers in developing countries. Regulation forcing them to pay higher wages is demanded... The NGOs, the reformed multinationals and enlightened rich-country governments propose tough rules on third-world factory wages, backed up by trade barriers to keep out imports from countries that do not comply. Shoppers in the West pay more - but willingly, because they know it is in a good cause. The NGOs declare another victory. The companies, having shafted their third-world competition and protected their domestic markets, count their bigger profits (higher wage costs notwithstanding). And the third-world workers displaced from locally owned factories explain to their children why the West's new deal for the victims of capitalism requires them to starve." NGO's in places like Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Albania, and Zimbabwe have become the preferred venue for Western aid - both humanitarian and financial - development financing, and emergency relief. According to the Red Cross, more money goes through NGO's than through the World Bank. Their iron grip on food, medicine, and funds rendered them an alternative government - sometimes as venal and graft-stricken as the one they replace. Local businessmen, politicians, academics, and even journalists form NGO's to plug into the avalanche of Western largesse. In the process, they award themselves and their relatives with salaries, perks, and preferred access to Western goods and credits. NGO's have evolved into vast networks of patronage in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. NGO's chase disasters with a relish. More than 200 of them opened shop in the aftermath of the Kosovo refugee crisis in 1999-2000. Another 50 supplanted them during the civil unrest in Macedonia a year later. Floods, elections, earthquakes, wars - constitute the cornucopia that feed the NGO's. NGO's are proponents of Western values - women's lib, human rights, civil rights, the protection of minorities, freedom, equality. Not everyone finds this liberal menu palatable. The arrival of NGO's often provokes social polarization and cultural clashes. Traditionalists in Bangladesh, nationalists in Macedonia, religious zealots in Israel, security forces everywhere, and almost all politicians find NGO's irritating and bothersome. The British government ploughs well over $30 million a year into "Proshika", a Bangladeshi NGO. It started as a women's education outfit and ended up as a restive and aggressive women empowerment political lobby group with budgets to rival many ministries in this impoverished, Moslem and patriarchal country. Other NGO's - fuelled by $300 million of annual foreign infusion - evolved from humble origins to become mighty coalitions of full-time activists. NGO's like the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) and the Association for Social Advancement mushroomed even as their agendas have been fully implemented and their goals exceeded. It now owns and operates 30,000 schools. This mission creep is not unique to developing countries. As Parkinson discerned, organizations tend to self-perpetuate regardless of their proclaimed charter. Remember NATO? Human rights organizations, like Amnesty, are now attempting to incorporate in their ever-expanding remit "economic and social rights" - such as the rights to food, housing, fair wages, potable water, sanitation, and health provision. How insolvent countries are supposed to provide such munificence is conveniently overlooked. "The Economist" reviewed a few of the more egregious cases of NGO imperialism. Human Rights Watch lately offered this tortured argument in favor of expanding the role of human rights NGO's: "The best way to prevent famine today is to secure the right to free expression - so that misguided government policies can be brought to public attention and corrected before food shortages become acute." It blatantly ignored the fact that respect for human and political rights does not fend off natural disasters and disease. The two countries with the highest incidence of AIDS are Africa's only two true democracies - Botswana and South Africa. The Centre for Economic and Social Rights, an American outfit, "challenges economic injustice as a violation of international human rights law". Oxfam pledges to support the "rights to a sustainable livelihood, and the rights and capacities to participate in societies and make positive changes to people's lives". In a poor attempt at emulation, the WHO published an inanely titled document - "A Human Rights Approach to Tuberculosis". NGO's are becoming not only all-pervasive but more aggressive. In their capacity as "shareholder activists", they disrupt shareholders meetings and act to actively tarnish corporate and individual reputations. Friends of the Earth worked hard four years ago to instigate a consumer boycott against Exxon Mobil - for not investing in renewable energy resources and for ignoring global warming. No one - including other shareholders - understood their demands. But it went down well with the media, with a few celebrities, and with contributors. As "think tanks", NGO's issue partisan and biased reports. The International Crisis Group published a rabid attack on the then incumbent government of Macedonia, days before an election, relegating the rampant corruption of its predecessors - whom it seemed to be tacitly supporting - to a few footnotes. On at least two occasions - in its reports regarding Bosnia and Zimbabwe - ICG has recommended confrontation, the imposition of sanctions, and, if all else fails, the use of force. Though the most vocal and visible, it is far from being the only NGO that advocates "just" wars. The ICG is a repository of former heads of state and has-been politicians and is renowned (and notorious) for its prescriptive - some say meddlesome - philosophy and tactics. "The Economist" remarked sardonically: "To say (that ICG) is 'solving world crises' is to risk underestimating its ambitions, if overestimating its achievements." NGO's have orchestrated the violent showdown during the trade talks in Seattle in 1999 and its repeat performances throughout the world. The World Bank was so intimidated by the riotous invasion of its premises in the NGO-choreographed "Fifty Years is Enough" campaign of 1994, that it now employs dozens of NGO activists and let NGO's determine many of its policies. NGO activists have joined the armed - though mostly peaceful - rebels of the Chiapas region in Mexico. Norwegian NGO's sent members to forcibly board whaling ships. In the USA, anti-abortion activists have murdered doctors. In Britain, animal rights zealots have both assassinated experimental scientists and wrecked property. Birth control NGO's carry out mass sterilizations in poor countries, financed by rich country governments in a bid to stem immigration. NGO's buy slaves in Sudan thus encouraging the practice of slave hunting throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Other NGO's actively collaborate with "rebel" armies - a euphemism for terrorists. NGO's lack a synoptic view and their work often undermines efforts by international organizations such as the UNHCR and by governments. Poorly-paid local officials have to contend with crumbling budgets as the funds are diverted to rich expatriates doing the same job for a multiple of the cost and with inexhaustible hubris. This is not conducive to happy co-existence between foreign do-gooders and indigenous governments. Sometimes NGO's seem to be an ingenious ploy to solve Western unemployment at the expense of down-trodden natives. This is a misperception driven by envy and avarice. But it is still powerful enough to foster resentment and worse. NGO's are on the verge of provoking a ruinous backlash against them in their countries of destination. That would be a pity. Some of them are doing indispensable work. If only they were a wee more sensitive and somewhat less ostentatious. But then they wouldn't be NGO's, would they? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Interview granted to Revista Terra, Brazil, September 2005 Q. NGOs are growing quickly in Brazil due to the discredit politicians and governmental institutions face after decades of corruption, elitism etc. The young people feel they can do something concrete working as activists in a NGOs. Isn't that a good thing? What kind of dangers someone should be aware before enlisting himself as a supporter of a NGO? A. One must clearly distinguish between NGOs in the sated, wealthy, industrialized West - and (the far more numerous) NGOs in the developing and less developed countries. Western NGOs are the heirs to the Victorian tradition of "White Man's Burden". They are missionary and charity-orientated. They are designed to spread both aid (food, medicines, contraceptives, etc.) and Western values. They closely collaborate with Western governments and institutions against local governments and institutions. They are powerful, rich, and care less about the welfare of the indigenous population than about "universal" principles of ethical conduct. Their counterparts in less developed and in developing countries serve as substitutes to failed or dysfunctional state institutions and services. They are rarely concerned with the furthering of any agenda and more preoccupied with the well-being of their constituents, the people. Q. Why do you think many NGO activists are narcissists and not altruists? What are the symptoms you identify on them? A. In both types of organizations - Western NGOs and NGOs elsewhere - there is a lot of waste and corruption, double-dealing, self-interested promotion, and, sometimes inevitably, collusion with unsavory elements of society. Both organizations attract narcissistic opportunists who regards NGOs as venues of upward social mobility and self-enrichment. Many NGOs serve as sinecures, "manpower sinks", or "employment agencies" - they provide work to people who, otherwise, are unemployable. Some NGOs are involved in political networks of patronage, nepotism, and cronyism. Narcissists are attracted to money, power, and glamour. NGOs provide all three. The officers of many NGOs draw exorbitant salaries (compared to the average salary where the NGO operates) and enjoy a panoply of work-related perks. Some NGOs exert a lot of political influence and hold power over the lives of millions of aid recipients. NGOs and their workers are, therefore, often in the limelight and many NGO activists have become minor celebrities and frequent guests in talk shows and such. Even critics of NGOs are often interviewed by the media (laughing). Finally, a slim minority of NGO officers and workers are simply corrupt. They collude with venal officials to enrich themselves. For instance: during the Kosovo crisis in 1999, NGO employees sold in the open market food, blankets, and medical supplies intended for the refugees. Q. How can one choose between good and bad NGOs? A. There are a few simple tests: 1. What part of the NGO's budget is spent on salaries and perks for the NGO's officers and employees? The less the better. 2. Which part of the budget is spent on furthering the aims of the NGO and on implementing its promulgated programs? The more the better. 3. What portion of the NGOs resources is allocated to public relations and advertising? The less the better. 4. What part of the budget is contributed by governments, directly or indirectly? The less the better. 5. What do the alleged beneficiaries of the NGO's activities think of the NGO? If the NGO is feared, resented, and hated by the local denizens, then something is wrong! 6. How many of the NGO's operatives are in the field, catering to the needs of the NGO's ostensible constituents? The more the better. 7. Does the NGO own or run commercial enterprises? If it does, it is a corrupt and compromised NGO involved in conflicts of interest. Q. The way you describe, many NGO are already more powerful and politically influential than many governments. What kind of dangers this elicits? Do you think they are a pest that need control? What kind of control would that be? A. The voluntary sector is now a cancerous phenomenon. NGOs interfere in domestic politics and take sides in election campaigns. They disrupt local economies to the detriment of the impoverished populace. They impose alien religious or Western values. They justify military interventions. They maintain commercial interests which compete with indigenous manufacturers. They provoke unrest in many a place. And this is a partial list. The trouble is that, as opposed to most governments in the world, NGOs are authoritarian. They are not elected institutions. They cannot be voted down. The people have no power over them. Most NGOs are ominously and tellingly secretive about their activities and finances. Light disinfects. The solution is to force NGOs to become both democratic and accountable. All countries and multinational organizations (such as the UN) should pass laws and sign international conventions to regulate the formation and operation of NGOs. NGOs should be forced to democratize. Elections should be introduced on every level. All NGOs should hold "annual stakeholder meetings" and include in these gatherings representatives of the target populations of the NGOs. NGO finances should be made completely transparent and publicly accessible. New accounting standards should be developed and introduced to cope with the current pecuniary opacity and operational double-speak of NGOs. Q. It seems that many values carried by NGO are typically modern and Western. What kind of problems this creates in more traditional and culturally different countries? A. Big problems. The assumption that the West has the monopoly on ethical values is undisguised cultural chauvinism. This arrogance is the 21st century equivalent of the colonialism and racism of the 19th and 20th century. Local populations throughout the world resent this haughty presumption and imposition bitterly. As you said, NGOs are proponents of modern Western values - democracy, women's lib, human rights, civil rights, the protection of minorities, freedom, equality. Not everyone finds this liberal menu palatable. The arrival of NGOs often provokes social polarization and cultural clashes.

         
    Race and racism some concepts defined

     

    Despite adamant claims to the contrary, racism continues to plague many peoples around the world. The first step toward resolving issues of racial intolerance and prejudice is to develop an understanding of the underlying concepts and their labels. This (rather long) article touches on the following topics: • Stereotypes, Race, and Racism • Culture and Cultural Imperialism • Nationalism and National Imaginary I hope you find this article helpful. Stereotypes According to Stroebe and Insko (1989), the term 'stereoptype' originated in 1798 to describe a printing process that involved casts of pages of type. The term was first used in relation to the social and political arena in 1922 by Walter Lippman, referring to our perception of different groups. Since then, the meaning of the term has been vigorously debated. Stereotyping was considered by some as the oversimplified, biased cognitive representations of "undesirable rigidity, permanence, and lack of variability from application to application" (ibid, 1989, p.4). Others, such as Brown (1965), considered it a natural fact of life like any other generalisation; "many generalisations acquired by heresay are true and useful" (cited in Stroebe & Insko, 1989, p.5). Stroebe and Insko (1989) settle on a simple definition which sits somewhere in between these two schools of thought. They define a stereotype as the “set of beliefs about the personal attributes of a group of people" (p.5). They obviously accept that stereotypes are not necessarily rigid, permanent, or invariable, but they do still distinguish between stereotypes and other categories, claiming that stereotypes are characterised by a bias towards the ingroup and away from the outgroup (p.5). Yzerbyt, et al (1997) attempt to explain the existence of stereotypes, suggesting that stereotypes provide not only a set of (often unjustified) attributes to describe a group, but also a rationale for maintaining that set of attributes. This allows people to “integrate incoming information according to their specific views” (p.21). Race When used in everyday speech in relation to multiculturalism, the term ‘race’ has come to mean any of the following: • nationality (geographically determined) - e. g. the Italian race • ethnicity (culturally determined, sometimes in combination with geography) - e. g. the Italian race • skin colour - e. g. the white race The common usage of ‘race’ is problematic because it is esoteric, and because it implies what Bell (1986) calls “biological certainty” (p.29). When we talk about race, there is always a common understanding that we are also talking about common genetic characteristics that are passed from generation to generation. The concept of nationality is generally not so heavily tarred with the genetics brush. Likewise, ethnicity allows for, and gives equal weight to, causes other than genetics; race does not. Skin colour is just a description of physical appearance; race is not. The concept of race may masquerade as a mere substitution for these terms, but in actual fact, it is a reconstruction. Further, there is the question of degree. Are you black if you had a black grandmother? Are you black if you grew up in a black neighbourhood? Are you black sometimes, but not others? Who makes these decisions? Racism Having established the problems associated with the term ‘race’, we can now discuss how these problems contribute to issues of racism. Jakubowicz et al (1994) define racism as “the set of values and behaviours associated with groups of people in conflict over physical appearances, genealogy, or cultural differences. It contains an intellectual/ideological framework of explanation, a negative orientation towards ‘the Other’, and a commitment to a set of actions that put these values into practice.” (p.27) What this definition fails to address is the framework of explanation. Perhaps it should say “…framework of explanation based on various notions of race and racial stereotypes…”. This would bring us back to our discussion of the concept of race. Because race is almost impossible to define, racial stereotypes are even more inappropriate than other kinds of stereotypes. Racism is an infuriating phenomenon because, irrespective of this, behaviour is still explained, and actions are still performed, based on these racial categorisations. Culture “Culture” is a term we’re all familiar with, but what does it mean? Does it reflect your nationality? Does it reflect your race? Does it reflect your colour, your accent, your social group? Kress (1988) defines culture as “the domain of meaningful human activity and of its effects and resultant objects” (p.2). This definition is very broad, and not particularly meaningful unless analysed in context. Lull (1995) talks of culture as “a complex and dynamic ecology of people, things, world views, activities, and settings that fundamentally endures but is also changed in routine communication and social interaction. Culture is context.” (p.66) As with other categorisation techniques, however, cultural labels are inherently innaccurate when applied at the individual level. No society is comprised of a single culture only. There are multitudes of sub-cultures which form due to different living conditions, places of birth, upbringing, etc. The concept of culture is useful because it differentiates between different groups of people on the basis of learned characteristics rather than genetic characteristics. It “implies that no culture is inherently superior to any other and that cultural richness by no means derives from economic standing” (Lull, 1995, p.66). This last may be one reason behind the so-called “intellectual aversion to the idea of culture” (Carey, 1989, p.19) that has been encounted in America (probably the West in general, and, I would say, definitely in Australia). Other reasons suggested are individualism, Puratinism, and the isolation of science from culture. Cultural Imperialism In 1971, Johan Galtung published a landmark paper called “A Structural Theory of Imperialism”. Galtung conceptualises the world as a system of centres and peripheries in which the centres exploit the peripheries by extracting raw materials, processing these materials, and selling the processed products back to the peripheries. Because the processed goods are bought at a far greater cost than the raw materials, the periphery finds it extremely difficult to find enough capital to develop the infrastructure necessary to process its own raw materials. Therefore, it is always running at a loss. Galtung’s model is not limited to the trade of raw materials such as coal, metals, oil, etc. To the contrary, it is designed to incorporate the transformation of any raw value (such as natural disasters, violence, death, cultural difference) into a valuable processed product (such as a news story, or a tourism industry). Galtung’s approach is inherently problematic, however, because it superimposes a centre-periphery relationship onto a world where no such relationship actually physically exists. In other words, it is a model which attempts to make sense of the intricate relationships between cultures, but by the very fact that it is a model, it is limiting. Admittedly, all theories are necessarily models, or constructions, of reality, but Galtung’s is potentially harmful because: a) it positions underdeveloped countries and their cultures in the periphery. In order for such countries/cultures to try to change their position, they must first acknowledge their position as peripheral; and b) it implies that the world will always contain imperialistic centre-periphery relationships; “A Centre country may slip into the Periphery, and vice versa” (Galtung &Vincent, 1992, p.49), but no allowance is made for the possibility of a world without imperialism. Therefore, if a country/culture wishes to change its position it must become an imperialistic centre. In recent times, the term ‘Cultural Imperialism’ has come to mean the cultural effects of Galtung’s imperialism, rather than the process of imperialism as he sees it. For example, Mowlana (1997) argues that cultural imperialism occurs when “the dominant center overwhelms the underdeveloped peripheries, stimulating rapid and unorganized cultural and social change (Westernization), which is arguably detrimental” (p.142). The issue of language decline due to imbalances in media structures and flow is often claimed to be the result of cultural imperialism. Browne (1996) theorises that “the rapid rise of the electronic media during the twentieth century, along with their dominance by the majority culture, have posed a tremendous challenge to the continuing integrity, and even the very existence, of indigenous minority languages… (p.60)” He suggests that indiginous languages decline because: • new indigenous terminology takes longer to be devised, and may be more difficult to use, thus ‘majority’ terminology tends to be used; • media monopolies have historically determined acceptable language usage; • schools have historically promoted the use of the ‘majority’ language; • indigenous populations around the world tend to rely quite heavily on electronic media because they have greater literacy problems. As a result, they are more heavily influenced by the ‘majority’ language than they realise; • the electronic media are inappropriate for communication in many indigenous languages because many such languages employ pauses as signs, and the electronic media remove pauses because they are regarded as “time wasted and as an indication of lack of professionalism” (Browne, p.61); and • television reinforces majority culture visual conventions, such as direct eye contact. Similarly, Wardhaugh (1987) discusses how the majority of medical and scientific articles are published in English. “While English does not completely monopolize the scientific literature, it is difficult to understand how a scientist who cannot read English can hope to keep up with current scientific activity.” (p.136) More books are published in English than any other language, and “much of higher education in the world is carried out in English or requires some knowledge of English, and the educational systems of many countries acknowledge that students should be given some instruction in English if they are to be adequately prepared to meet the needs of the late twentieth century.” (Wardhaugh, 1987, p.137) There are definitely uncounted instances of one culture suffering at the hands of another, but there are still problems with explaining this in terms of Cultural Imperialism. In addition to those outlined above with relation to Galtung, there are a number of other problems. The Cultural Imperialism approach: • does not allow for the appropriation or select cultural values by the ‘minority’ culture in order to empower, or in some other way, benefit, that culture; • presupposes some degree of natural change, it does not discuss where the line between natural change and imperialism can be drawn. (When is the change a necessary part of the compromise of living in a multicultural society?); and • overlooks the changes to ‘dominant’ cultures which necessarily occur as it learns about the ‘subordinate’ culture. Atal (1997) asserts that “[f]orces of change, impinging from the outside, have not succeeded in transforming the [non-West] cultures into look-alike societies. Cultures have shown their resilience and have survived the onslaught of technological changes.” (p.24) Robertson (1994) talks of Glocalisation, with the local being seen as an aspect of the global, not as its opposite. For example, we can see “the construction of increasingly differentiated consumers… To put it very simply, diversity sells” (p.37). It is his contention that “we should not equate the communicative and interactive connecting of… cultures with the notion of homogenisation of all cultures” (p.39). This article does not suggest that we should be complacent about the effects cultures may have on each other. Rather, it suggests Cultural Imperialism is somewhat flawed as a tool for cultural and social criticism and change. Instead, each problem should be identified as an individual problem, not as a part of an overall phenomenon called cultural imperialism. Nationalism In his discussion of culture and identity, Singer (1987) argues that nationalism is a relatively modern phenomenon which started with the French and American revolutions. Singer asserts that “[a]s the number and importance of identity groups that individuals share rise, the more likely they are to have a higher degree of group identity” (p.43). Using this premise, he suggests that nationalism is a very powerful identity because it combines a host of other identities, such as “language, ethnicity, religion, and long-shared historic memory as one people attached to a particular piece of land” (p.51). It’s not surprising then, that Microsoft’s Encarta Online (1998) defines nationalism as a “movement in which the nation-state is regarded as the most important force for the realization of social, economic, and cultural aspirations of a people.” National “imaginary” Anne Hamilton (1990) defines national imaginary as “the means by which contemporary social orders are able to produce not merely images of themselves but images of themselves against others. An image of the self implies at once an image of another, against which it can be distinguished (p.16)” She argues that it can be conceptualised as looking in a mirror and thinking we see someone else. By this, she means that a social order transplants its own (particularly bad) traits onto another social group. In this way, the social order can view itself in a positive way, serving to “unite the collectivity and maintain its sense of cohesion against outsiders” (Hamilton, 1990, p.16). It seems, however, that the process can also work in the reverse direction. Hamilton suggests that in the case of Australia, there is a lack of images of the self. She asserts that the social order has appropriated aspects of Aboriginal culture as a result. In terms of the mirror analogy, this would be the self looking at another and thinking it sees itself. References Atal, Y., (1997) “One World, Multiple Centres” in Media & politics in transition: cultural identity in the age of globalization, ED. Servaes, J., & Lie, R., (pp.19-28), Belgium: Uitgeverij Acco. Bell, P., (1986) “Race, Ethnicity: Meanings and Media”, in Multicultural Societies, ED. Bell, R., (pp.26-36). Browne, D. R., (1996) Electronic Media and Indigenous Peoples, Ames: Iowa State University Press. Galtung, J., (1971) “A Structural Theory of Imperialism” in Journal of Peace Research (8:2, pp.81-117). Galtung, J., & Vincent, R. C. (1992) Global Glasnost, Hamptom Press, USA. Hamilton, A., (1990) “Fear and Desire: Aborigines, Asians and the National Imaginary” in Australian Perceptions of Asia (No.9, pp.14-35). Jakubowicz, A., Goodall, H., Martin, J., Mitchell, T., Randall, L., & Seneviratne, K. (1994) Racism, Ethnicity and the Media, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW, Australia. Kress, G., (1989) Communication and Culture: An Introduction, New South Wales University Press, Australia. Lull, J., (1995) Media, Communication, Culture: A Global Approach. Polity Press. Mowlana, H., (1997) Global Information and World Communication: New Frontiers in International Relations, Sage Publications Ltd. Robertson, R., (1994) “Glocalisation” in The Journal of International Communication, 1,1, (pp.32-52). Singer, M. R., (1987) Intercultural Communication: A Perceptual Approach, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Stroebe, W., & Insko, C..A., (1989) “Stereotype, Prejudice, and Discrimination: Changing Conceptions in Theory and Research” in Stereotyping and Prejudice: Changing Conceptions, ED. Bar-Tal, D., Graumann, C. F., Kruglanski, A. W., Stroebe, W., (pp.3-34), Springer-Verlag New York Inc. Wardhaugh, R., (1987), Languages in Competition: Dominance, Diversity, and Decline, Basil Blackwell Ltd., Oxford, UK. Yzerbyt, V., Rocher, S., & Schadron, G., (1997) “Stereotypes as Explanations: A Subjective Essentialistic View of Group Perception” in The Social Psychology of Stereotyping and Group Life, ED. Spears, R., Oakes, P. J., Ellemers, N., & Haslam, S. A., (pp.20-50), Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

         
    The current status of world hunger

     

    Where does starvation exist in the world today? What are some of the causes of world hunger? Are citizens of developed countries donating monetarily to the ongoing relief efforts? In this article I will address these questions with the hope that by creating an understanding of the current world hunger situation, morally conscious individuals will do their part in contributing to the eradication of this unseen suffering. It is a well known fact that there is enough food in the world to feed every human being on earth. Sadly, malnutrition and hunger still afflict one out of every seven people in the world today. Or, from a slightly different statistical perspective, the current world population is 4,712,200,000. The number of malnourished is 797,900,000. Therefore 17% of the world population is currently malnourished or starving. No matter how you examine the issue, a current crisis is at hand. Why is this so? The causes of starvation are complex, but there are some common threads that seem to be associated with this problem. First and foremost, starvation is caused by poverty. To address the problem of world hunger then the problem of global poverty must be addressed. Therefore, the question that we should examine is what are the causes of poverty. A thorough discussion on the causes of global poverty is outside the purview of this article. Entire textbooks have been written on the subject. For our discussion, it is suffice to say that one of the major causes of poverty is governments pursuing policies that inhibit self sufficiency. Areas of starvation are also characterized by persistent problems in cultivating food from lack of seed, arable land, and tools. Those that can grow food, must deal with insects, drought, floods, and war, which can result in complete destruction of crops. Historically, areas of Africa have experienced periodic locusts infestations, which can completely destroy crops. Other causes of world hunger are related to the globalize system of food production. The globalize system of food production and trade favors a reliance on export crops while discriminating against small-scale farmers and subsistence crops. Many third world countries export out to much food while concomitantly not keeping enough food to sustain their own people. AIDS is a significant cause of hunger. In societies affected by AIDS, famine is more deadly and difficult to combat. Why is this so? AIDS attacks the most productive individuals within society. Fewer productive people within society means fewer individuals to work the jobs that involve food production. This is one contributor to the starvation currently taking place in Africa. Weather plays a major role in terms of the prevalence of starvation. Areas of drought leads to non-useable land with subsequent famine. This is well known. But less well known is that floods can also lead to starvation. Crops can be flooded and therefore destroyed, which in essence produces the same result as drought. In both cases, weather can produce a complete lack of self sufficiency. Military conflicts, both internal and between neighboring countries, can lead to starvation. These conflicts can result in destruction of crops. Government money is directed at funding the conflict at the expense of the starving people. Funds are diverted from social and economic development. Military conflicts can also result in the displacement of large groups of people, removing them from their farms and their way of life. People can end up in refugee camps, completely dependent on relief aid. The causative factors of world hunger are numerous, and certain factors change from year to year, therefore at any given time, some areas may be more prone then others. The extent of drought, flood, internal conflicts, and war with neighboring countries can vary over time. Therefore, these factors incorporate a variable affect on the degree to which inhabitants of susceptible countries suffer from starvation. A combination of these causative factors in a particular region is a formula for disaster. When this occurs, large scale starvation can take place. A case in point. The Horn of Africa has seen severe drought coupled with internal conflicts. This is leading to the development of a tragedy. In this region currently 11 million people are on the brink of starvation. Historically, certain areas of the world have had a high prevalence of hunger and starvation. These areas are the central region of South America, large areas of East, Central, and Southern Africa, and regions of South Asia. As of 2006, the current hot spots, those areas which are suffering the greatest degree of starvation, are as follows: Niger: This area in central Africa has been struggling to cope with the devastating impact of drought and locusts infestations. Haiti: In this region extreme poverty has been further exacerbated by a political crisis, floods, tropical storms, and hurricanes. Horn of Africa: An estimated 11 million people in the Horn of Africa "are on the brink of starvation" because of severe drought and war. Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia need food aid, water, new livestock and seeds. This is a major hunger crisis in development. Afghanistan: Poverty in Afghanistan, made worse by drought, has contributed greatly to their hunger problem. Pakistan: The recent earthquake coupled with a severe winter have produced starvation conditions. Recently, mud slides have hampered relief efforts. North Korea: Food insecurity caused by the countries economic problems, is compounded by unpredictable and severe weather conditions. To date, the North Korean government has failed in its duty to provide for it‘s starving people. The North Korean government has actually refused foreign aid. Columbia: A 40 year civil conflict and the illegal drug trade have caused mass displacement and poverty. Democratic Republic of Congo: 3.4 million people have been internally displaced as a result of a continuing internal conflict. Mali: They are struggling to cope with the devastating impact of a recent drought. Southern Africa: Erratic weather, lack of seed and fertilizer, chronic poverty, and AIDS have been contributing factors to starvation. These are the areas of the world which are currently suffering the highest levels of malnutrition and hunger. With this understanding of where relief efforts are needed, we must address the question of individual response. Are individuals of developed countries donating to relief efforts? Most morally conscious individuals donate to relief efforts when the problem is presented to them. A major problem in the relief effort is the general population of developed countries not knowing about the current hunger crisis. News organizations, more specifically television news, are not giving enough attention to the global hunger situation. While an in depth discussion as to the reasons for this is outside the purview of this article, a few points can be made. Evidently, the American TV news organizations, do not think world hunger is much of a story since starvation is a daily occurrence. I suspect, from the perspective of these news organizations, that 24,000 people per day dying from hunger is not a big enough news story. When 1,386 people died from hurricane Katrina, the news coverage was enormous. Five months after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, TV news organizations were still squeezing all they could out of this story. Granted this was an obvious tragedy, but an even bigger tragedy, much bigger, is going on in Africa and the general public does not even know about it. I have seen little to almost no coverage given by American TV news organizations on the devastating hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa. I have only learned of this crisis through RSS feeds on the Internet. Television news organizations such as CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC are thus far not reporting on this crisis. Hopefully this will change. It is evident that the American TV news organizations do not really provide total and complete news, rather they screen the events and only provide what they feel may be interesting to their audience. News organizations should present the news and concomitantly maintain high journalistic standards. Maybe these news organizations need to incorporate a higher level of moral obligation into their decision making process, when deciding which stories to cover. In any case, people can not donate if they do not know the problem exists. We have addressed some key questions in order to characterize the current status of the world hunger situation. We have examined where hunger is the most prevalent in the world today, and we have identified some of the causative factors which contribute to malnutrition, hunger, and starvation. We have concluded that most morally conscious individuals would contribute to the elimination of hunger, if they knew about the crisis. Finally, we have observed that the degree of world hunger coverage by TV news organizations is very much lacking. Even though TV news organizations have not been covering the current world hunger crisis, by reading this article, you have developed an understanding of the degree to which starvation is prevalent in the world today. If you are reading this in a developed country, which is highly likely since you are reading it on a computer which has Internet access, you have a moral obligation to donate either time or money to help in the elimination of unseen suffering. Winston Churchill once said "we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." We must all do our part to eliminate world hunger.

         
    The roman family

     

    The father in the Roman family (paterfamilias) exercised absolute and lifelong power over all other family members (patria potestas): his wife, children, and slaves. If the father's father was alive - then he was the supreme authority in the household. Fathers were even allowed to execute their grown sons for serious offenses like treason. Each house maintained a cult of ancestors and hearth gods and the paterfamilias was its priest. The family was thought to posses a "genius" (gens) - an inner spirit - passed down the generations. The living and the dead members of the family shared the gens and were bound by it. Legitimate offspring belonged to the father's family. The father retained custody if the couple (rarely) divorced exclusively at the husband's initiative. The father had the right to disown a newborn - usually deformed boys or girls. This led to a severe shortage of women in Rome. The father of the bride had to pay a sizable dowry to the family of the groom, thus impoverishing the other members of the family. Moreover, daughters shared equally in the estate of a father who died without a will - thus transferring assets from their family of origin to their husband's family. No wonder females were decried as an economic liability. At the beginning, slaves were considered to be part of the family and were well-treated. They were allowed to save money (peculium) and to purchase their freedom. Freed slaves became full-fledged Roman citizens and usually stayed on with the family as hired help or paid laborers. Only much later, in the vast plantations amassed by wealthy Romans, were slaves abused and regarded as inanimate property.

         
    We live in a system of beliefs

     

    The following article about beliefs is just an expression of my thoughts. It is certainly not definitive. In my opinion, we live our life on the basis of beliefs. We, literally live in a huge belief system. So seamlessly integrated (into our world) are some beliefs that most people assume that they are natural and accepted them without questioning. The very act of reading this article is belief-based, because the very construct that is formed in your head now is conceptual & of the thinking mind. Perhaps, what really is does not just exist as concepts, but also exists in the NOW as experience. Although one is able to describe or conceptualize a truth, the conceptualization is itself a thought. Beliefs can be very powerful, especially when the majority of the population buys into it. Sometime a certain belief when set in motion, causes catalytic reactions, triggering the formation of yet other beliefs. Gradually, layers upon layers of beliefs mire directness and truth. So thickly laden with beliefs and far removed from the original spontaneity that life becomes unnecessarily complex and ritualized. Major beliefs operating in our world are: Identification of self with physical body. When in actual fact, we are much more than that. This belief can be very difficult to un-ravel. And it takes many series of self-discovery to realize our true nature. The entire scope of this belief is beyond what can be expressed within this article. So I will leave it as that. War. War is borne out of beliefs that justify aggression to others that is participated by large groups. War itself is a belief, because nature and animals do not engage in it. Only humans do it, because it was conceived in the human mind, and it isn't natural or essential to human conditions. Military is an offshoot borne from War Money buys happiness. A belief that most thought of as true is that money gives one happiness. Happiness does not need money to fulfill, one merely made oneself believe so! The concept of Money set in motion the belief in status, status breeds competition, competition breeds the rat race, rat race cause one to slog a life time working and eventually few remembered the original purpose of life was for joy and fulfillment. Status. A person’s worth that is dictated by factors such as financial abundance and rank. This one creates much suffering in very hierarchical societies. This one is closely related to ‘money buys happiness.’ Perfectionism. It is a most prevalent belief in our civilization. Everywhere in this world of ours, perfectionism is regarded as good while imperfection is bad. Everybody wants everybody else to be perfect. Is Perfection really an absolute value? I think not. In my opinion, it is relative and is borne of human conception. Perfection is an idea. Things are the way they are. Perfection and imperfection are attached values. Country. The concept of country is just a belief in the ownership of land. Essentially, humans did not create land therefore nobody owns it. Patriotism is an offshoot belief borne from 'country'. When there are no countries and no wars, there are no needs for Patriotism. Well, I think I have rambled enough. Thank you for reading.

         
     
         
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